Fantasy Football Streaming
Welcome to the first edition of the Primal Stream! I’ll break down some streaming options for Week 2, focusing on players who are under 45% owned in ESPN fantasy leagues. These are fantasy assets that give you a shot to buy low on before a good matchup, and sell high on afterward.
Where is the Week 1 edition of this article, you may ask? If you’re streaming a quarterback, tight end, or defense in Week 1 following the draft, the first waiver run, free agency, and before any actual football has been played, something truly horrible has happened to you, or you just really enjoy messing with your league-mates.
Streaming Fantasy Quarterbacks
Sam Darnold – 8.4% Owned
Dolphins at Jets
Sam Darnold kicked off his NFL career with a pick-6 on his first throw, but recovered quickly and impressed for the remainder of the game, throwing for 198 yards, 2 touchdowns, and an interception.
Miami struggled overall in pass coverage in Week 1, despite their 3 interceptions against the Titans, earning a coverage grade of 60.2 per PFF, 25th of 32 teams.
Miami did a better job in defending the run against the Titans (65.0 run defense grade) than the Lions did against the Jets (61.4 run defense grade), so while the Jets should find success on the ground, it would be a stretch to expect a repeat of the 160 combined yards from Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell on only 22 total carries. The Jets had a 61%/39% run/pass ratio in Week 1, and this should shift somewhat more toward the passing game against the Dolphins.
I expect Miami to have more success scoring on the Jets defense that the Lions did. As I’ll detail below, it may be premature to elevate the Jets defense as one to avoid. Coupled with this being a divisional matchup, the Jets could find themselves in a less-lopsided affair, further nudging the offense toward a more balanced attack, which should mean more Sam Darnold.
Ryan Tannehill – 5% Owned
Dolphins at Jets
Ryan Tannehill threw for 230 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions in Week 1. The Titans defended the run well, but didn’t generate much of a pass rush, grading out with a 58.3 pass rush grade, 9th-worst of the week, via profootballfocus.com.
The Jets defense looked impressive against the Lions, intercepting quarterback Matthew Stafford four times, and adding a fifth pick off of backup Matt Cassel. Many had low expectations for this Jets defense going into the season (myself included), and they finished the week with PFF’s fifth-best coverage grade as a defensive unit. So how could Tannehill be a good streaming option against them?
Primarily: sample size. Jet’s linebacker Darron Lee, for example, finished the week as PFF’s highest-graded linebacker in the league overall at 94.5, with a 94.1 coverage grade. His 44.2 grade in 2017 was 97th out of 100 linebackers with 224-plus snaps. His coverage grade of 42.6 was 90th. Morris Claiborne posted an 89.5 coverage grade, second on the Jets after Lee, but he posted a 58.3 coverage grade in 2017.
This isn’t to say there can’t be marked improvement from the Jet’s secondary, but it seems hasty to assume such a drastic turnaround after one game. A game in which, according to Jets players, defenders knew what plays were being called. Meanwhile, the Jets generated a pass rushing grade of 56.0, PFF’s fifth-worst for the week. Tannehill’s average time to throw was 2.22 seconds, the fifth-fastest among quarterbacks, which means less time for pass rushers to break through.
Looking further ahead to Week 3, Tannehill also has a matchup with the Oakland Raiders, who are shaping as a defense to target with opposing quarterbacks, so Tannehill may be worth hanging onto for that matchup as well.
Streaming Fantasy Tight Ends
O.J. Howard – 16% Owned
Eagles at Buccaneers
O.J. Howard was on the field for 65% of Tampa Bay’s snaps in week one, which closely resembles his snap percentage of 64% for all of 2017. He ran 16 total routes as a receiver, drawing 2 targets, and caught both for 54 yards. He had 43 total snaps, which means that he spent 63% of his time on the field in Week 1 blocking.
The Saints had no answers for Bucs receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson, and the duo ran roughshod over the Saints secondary, combining for 193 yards and three touchdowns. Based on their Week 1 performance (and, yes, a jaw-dropping 2017 defensively), the Eagles should present a much stiffer test.
With Desean Jackson looking unlikely to suit up this week, Chris Godwin should see an increase in snaps, but Howard should also see a bump up in his receiving routes run. Cameron Brate could also be a factor here, but after he saw just 24 snaps against New Orleans, Howard is the safer streaming bet among Tampa Bay tight ends.
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Ricky Seals-Jones – 7.2% Owned
Cardinals at Rams
I should be 100% transparent here: I’m a Ricky Seals-Jones truther. I drafted him with regularity in bestball leagues in the offseason, with the expectation that his efficiency in a small sample size last year would translate well with more volume.
Seals-Jones was on the field for 92% of the Cardinals’ snaps on Sunday, running 35 routes as a receiver, but was only targeted six times, catching three of those targets for 19 yards.
The Cardinals offense overall was fairly abysmal, and only the Bills earned a lower overall PFF grade offensively than Arizona. They were up against what appears to be a very good Redskins defense with an excellent pass rush, and now they draw the Los Angeles Rams.
The same Rams who just allowed Jared Cook to catch nine passes for 180 yards. The Cardinals lined up Seals-Jones all over the formation in Week 1; he saw snaps as the outside receiver on both sides of the field, in addition to the slot routes on both sides that made up the majority of his receiving snaps. If he continues to see the majority of team snaps, the Cardinals should be able to scheme him into favorable matchups, making Seals-Jones a worthy stream.
Streaming Fantasy Defenses
Washington Redskins – 9.6% Owned
Redskins at Colts
Washington played an impressive game defensively against the Cardinals last week, in all phases. Matt Ioannidis and Jonathan Allen both excelled in pass rushing from the interior of the defensive line, while cornerbacks Quinton Dunbar and Josh Norman and linebacker Zach Brown all excelled in coverage.
They face a Colts offense helmed by Andrew Luck, who had an impressive return to action against a strong Bengals defense, throwing for 319 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception, earning him an 82.1 overall grade, PFF’s 7th-best in Week 1.
The Redskins should present a significantly stronger pass-rush this week, particularly from the interior, against a Colts offensive line with new faces in Quentin Nelson and Matt Slauson at left and right guard respectively. That in combination with impressive coverage from the secondary should make the Redskins D/ST a strong start this week.
San Francisco 49ers – 1% Owned
Lions at 49ers
Based on their Week 1 performance, it would seem like any defense going up against the Lions is a plug-and-play streaming option. And, well, that may prove to be the truth. While it may be reasonable to expect them to change their hand signals, their offensive struggles went deeper than possibly telegraphing plays.
The Lions offensive line actually protected Stafford well, via PFF, as his 11 pressured dropbacks were relatively low (certainly compared to Tyrod Taylor’s league-leading 24). Stafford’s 36.7 passer rating on pressured throws was the ninth-lowest mark among all quarterbacks with at least 20 attempts. When kept clean, Stafford’s 51.6 passer rating was the fourth-lowest mark. Aside from Kenny Golladay, all of Detroit’s receivers graded out below-average for Week 1, while the Lions run-blocking overall was the fourth-worst in the league on Monday.
The Lions defensive effort and execution was also clearly poor, and if this continues into Week 2, it should allow Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers offense plenty of extended drives, providing a beneficial game script for the 49ers defense. It could also force the Lions into a sub-optimal offensive game script, allowing the 49ers to narrow their defensive responsibilities and increase their aggressiveness against the pass.
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Thanks for Reading
I’m just a guy who was born in Massachusetts and went to college in Minnesota (Macalester College) and moved to New York and then went to grad school in San Francisco (The American Conservatory Theater) before moving back to New York and finally to Los Angeles. I began playing fantasy football in a single league in 2001, which quickly grew into multiple leagues, and has continued into just about every form that fantasy football takes today (no developmental leagues yet). My strong opinions are loosely held, always trying to get better.